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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Selling STa"M to Reform

We had an argument in shul today if it is permissable to sell Stam, particularly Sifrei torah, to reform and conservative shules. can anyone please shed some light on what is done and accepted in this regard amoungst heimishe sochrim and sofrim in the USA?

8 comments:

  1. there was a long discussion on this with lots of comments, early in the forum

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  2. http://stamforum.blogspot.com.au/2012/01/shaila-about-reform.html

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  3. I've gone back and reread the earlier post on this subject and in general I agree. However, I think the sofer must also judge on a case by case basis how the articles he sells will be used.

    I live in an area with a small orthodox and large reform population. Most of the reformim have virtually no education whatsoever in Yiddishkeit, they practice the way they do because they know nothing else. They're a bit like Jews kidnapped and raised by goyim, G-d forbid. For example, many reformim here think that putting up a mezuzah means putting up a mezuzah case and are surprised to learn there's supposed to be a klaf inside. I can't tell you how many empty mezuzos I've "checked". Those with a bit more sophistication usually have photocopies. So when one of these folks comes to me and wants to buy proper, kosher mezuzos for their home, well, I'm almost ecstatic.

    The same is true of tefillin. Maybe one in fifty reformim here would know what they were looking at if they saw a pair of tefillin on the table. I think I'd offer a twenty percent discount to reform Jews who wanted to start putting on tefillin!

    My basic rule is this: If by selling a Jew some article of STAM, I would thereby enable him to perform a mitzvah in the proper way, then I do it, whatever his background or level of observance.

    Given the particular circumstances of my geographic area, I don't think of it as in any way giving credence to the Reform movement as much as doing mivtzoim of sorts, to borrow the Lubavitcher expression.

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    1. True there is a major difference between selling tefillin and mezzuzahs which are a mitzvah for all Jews and are proper to sell to someone regardless of their background (since they want to do a mitzvah now) and between selling a Kosher Sefer Torah to a reform institution.
      The Sefer Torah can possibly be a) disrespected (and in many cases this is vadai) and b)one is mechazak the reform institution (and it could possibly be interpreted as giving credence to them).
      The Lubavitcher Rebbe was very careful that all miztzaim must strictly follow halacha in all aspects. Similarly the Rebbe would not call a reform rabbi "a Rabbi". These issues are really not simple and one must get guidance from their Rav Morah Horah and not act with shriros libo.

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  5. Around a month or so after this original post I found in Teshuvas from R' Yitzchak Elchanon (from Machon Yerushalayim) Siman 64 that he writes in a very short teshuva that it's ossur to sell a Sefer Torah to Karoim.

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    1. Thanks for your comments. Despite it being ussur to sell a Sefer Torah to Karoim, I believe it may be the exception rather than the rule that sofrim refuse to sell a kosher Torah to Reform shuls.

      To better support my hunch I did a quick bit of research over the weekend to try to get a sense of what the current practice on this subject is among sofrim/STAM dealers in the US and Israel with websites. So, I sent an email to sixteen such sites asking for more information about starting a Torah writing campaign.

      In my fictitious request, I clearly stated I was representing a diverse, egalitarian Reform Temple in California, and that although not Torah observant, the congregation had decided it would be a better investment to buy a new scroll rather than one that had been restored. I then stated that due to a number of generous benefactors I had a budget of about $45,000 to include rollers, ornaments and a siyyum ceremony at the shul.

      I sent the message early Sunday morning, by evening I had eleven positive responses. One even referred me to a testimonials page on his site with positive feedback from over twenty Reform temples that have used his services to procure kosher Sifrei Torah. I received two more positive responses today, bringing the total to thirteen. Only three of the sites I contacted failed to respond, and none of them, so far, have refused to sell me a kosher Torah.

      I'd have to have included a much larger number of scribes and dealers to get a truly accurate picture of the situation. However, from this quick survey I conclude that despite it being usser, for many sofrim the prospect of landing a commission for a new Sefer Torah simply represents too much guaranteed income to pass up whatever the religious differences of the customer.

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  6. Benyomin, I think what you have discovered is actually quite scandelous and needs to be addressed by the vaad mishmeres stam or some greater authority than this forum.

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